Category Archives: 2014 Build Blog

The 2014 Build Blog for the FIRST Robotics Competition, game Aerial Assist.

Day #5 – 1/8/2014 – Improving

Here in the shop things have certainly been hectic. Everyone has their place and only leaves when the snack room is opened. The students are busier than a president before elections. So I am going to get right to the important parts.

Mr.Black-Mentor is pleased with the progress. The students finished with the construction of the gearbox bearing block. They also completed cutting the wheel blanks & set them up to be machined the next day.

Armand-Media was certainly busy today. He had the immense job of organizing the 696 photo archives. He sifted through almost Fifty gigabytes of photos. He also created the video for our KickStarter, which will aid us with funding.

Jerry-Business was tasked with working on the Chairmen’s Award which is coming along swimmingly. His real obstacle today was to resign all of the team’s advertisement material. He started by redoing the entire brochure for the season. Advertisements are very important to set a lasting impression as many successful teams and businessmen know.

Saikiran-President helped business team with the Chairmen’s Award today. Refined the prototype of the claw shooter. Discussed preliminary design decisions with other team leaders, which is a very important task because what they decide will dictate not only the design of the robot but the outcome of this season.

Jack refined the catapult prototype which increased the shooting distance and height drastically. It was able to shoot above a six foot truss from eighteen feet away.

The claw shooter, lead by Joshua and Saikiran, was able to shoot at an astounding 30 feet!

We will continue to make improvements, innovate, optimize and build until we have a new trophy to place on our wall.

Day #4 – 1/7/2014 – Momentum Slowing

The first day of the second semester was today and the slow start to the new school semester definitely lingered into the team’s work today. While the lab opened at 12:00 noon for seniors without 5th and 7th period classes, some of the momentum and excitement of previous meetings was lost as prototypes are continuously being tested and other small yet important steps are taken for what will hopefully be a successful season.

Saikiran and Joshua both worked on one of two prototypes that the team has built. This particular prototype sports a design very much like a hand that launches the ball thanks to a shaft that is powered my multiple bungee cords and surgical tubing. They attempted using different shafts to increase the range that the competition ball could be shot at. The first shaft was a simple aluminum shaft which was later replaced by a steel shaft which is used in this picture below.



The ball went further after many surgical tubing rigging changes.

Due to the lack of strength in the materials of Jack’s prototype, the catapult-like mechanism lost some of its form and bent in vulnerable areas. This was a major road block for him though he has begun testing the same concept with a thicker wooden structure.


Shay worked on designing a frame for the robot. He made a prototype out of cardboard and used the past year’s robot bumper as a guide for sizing.

Matt completed a large about of the field today with the help of many others. They have almost completed assembling the high goal of the field out of wood. He also began using the horizontal band saw to cut the stock for the wheels that we will be using this season. The blade in the band saw broke while cutting the aluminum although the exact cause of its failure is uncertain.

Alexander and his programming division got a good about of work done themselves though. Alexander himself made progress on a network protocol that will stream target data from our onboard coprocessor to our serial. One of our rookie programmers, Daniel, also got to reprogram 2012’s robot: Queen Hannah’s Revenge.


Nick, the leader of the CAD team, did some high profile work himself. Throughout the evening he worked on redesigning the gearbox plate to fit FR6-ZZ.   He changed and adjusted the locations of the motors so that they would not interfere with each other.


The day ended with a thorough cleaning of the lab as the two prototypes had some significant enhancements by the end of the evening.

Lab closing time: 8:45 PM.

Day #3 – 1/06/2014 – Hard At Work

[Lab Opening Time: 9:00 AM]

Our team’s president worked on building the prototype of the chassis. He tried to improve the range of the shooter from a measly foot to at least five feet. This prototype works but still needs to be refined and tweaked. It is slightly risky because of the complexity and amount of moving parts, but it is possible to have a proficient launcher with enough time and effort.

In the programming department, besides arguing about which distro of Linux was superior above the many others, members improved their skills in programming. The vice president of the programming department was in charge of teaching the rookies how to code in Java. They ran many tests on QHR, 2012’s robot, which served as a testing platform for their code.

Members of the CAD team worked on the CAD assembly of the world-famous Team 696 custom gearbox. There were a few problems along the way, but it will be milled and gearing towards success in no time.

The media team is working very hard to document our progress this season.  Besides managing the barrage of camera flashes, the leader of the team worked on the video for the Chairman’s Award, which challenges teams to demonstrate the several principles of FIRST.

The mechanical team trusted with the important task of prototyping a design for this year’s robot. Today they worked on our claw shooter design, which involves many elastic bands. Their design improvements will greatly influence the choosing of a claw mech, or a simpler mechanism (such as a catapult). Although rather complex, the claw shooter will allow us to angle the shot with ease and to shoot around or above any defending robots.

Mr. Black-Mentor-Today Mr. Black had to pick up material from Fry Steel in Santa Fe Springs for the wheels, sprockets and gear box plates. He completed the front and back bearing blocks, but not everything was great today. The Haas mill broke an end mill which cost us some time, which feels scarce even though we have six weeks.  We have no idea why it broke, but it was rather disappointing given that it was our last one, and costs about $50. Also, the VFD in the lathe is dead.  Another has been ordered.  For now, someone will have to use the CNC lathe, or Mr. Black will have to use his lathe at home until we can get it repaired.

One thing we did learn today is that the Mini Mill doesn’t have the torque to run at the feedrates calculated by FSWizard when taking deep cuts and 30% stepover on a 1/2″ endmill.  We were peaking the spindle load to 140%, so we backed off the feed from 110 to about 50 IPM, and backed off the stepover to 20%.  Mr. Widholm finished programming for the gearbox bearing blocks, and Mr. Black finished programming the 7 tools for the first operation to do the back side of the wheel.  Julien C. cut three blanks for the gearbox bearing blocks.  We didn’t get to setting up tools for the gearbox bearing block today.  Tomorrow, the goal is to finish the gearbox bearing blocks and wheels, then onto sprockets and axles the next day, then gearbox plates, then cams, then framerails, then baseplates.  At this point, we feel 2 full days behind, but the goal is to have all of the above complete by the end of Monday, which Mr. Black thinks is achievable at this time.

Mr. Black’s teacher computer maxed out 6GB of RAM without even having a large Inventor model open, so he ordered 16GB (4x4GB) from NewEgg for about $200.  That should help boost performance and maintain productivity.

We ended the day with Jack’s flipper-launcher prototype launching about 9 feet, half the needed distance.  More spring force is needed.

Lab closing time: 8:45 PM


Editorial – 1/06/2014 – Media Team: Hard at Work

Over the last few days, the media team has spent countless hours documenting the overall progress of the team.  Great job everyone! The media team has been hard at work preparing the Kickstarter video for next week’s launch date and preparing the script for the chairman’s award video.  If anyone has any suggestions on what we should include in our chairman’s award video or if anyone would be willing to be interviewed for the chairman’s award please talk to me or Chris Kramer.


Editorial – 1/06/2014 – Great expectations

In the flurry of brainstorming and researching that comes with a new season’s complicated game, it’s pretty easy to forget what a Chairman’s Award is. Even after we finish a robot, we still see Chairman’s as nothing more than a dream, seeing as we haven’t established world peace, developed time travel, or started FIRST teams in any alternate universes.

This year, however, I must raise a radical proposition. This year, Team 696 has a serious chance at winning Chairman’s. We didn’t just do well last year– we excelled at both our regionals, our off-season events, and even brought our Lego robotics teams to the LA Finals. This improvement, this steady upward climb, is what Chairman’s is all about. We have every prerequisite to grab a Chairman’s Award and tickets to the St. Louis finals– all we have to do is keep it up.

For these next six weeks, business team and our glorious President Saikiran will be working behind the scenes to make Chairman’s happen. This may be the most grueling essay we will ever write in high school, but darned if it isn’t worth it.

Keep it up, everybody. St. Louis or bust.

Day #2 – 1/5/2014 – Manufacturing Progress

The day started at about 10AM with me taking the Canyonero, err, Suburban to Ghanal Lumber in Pasadena, where a nice gentleman cut all the pieces of plywood for the high goal for a modest fee.  Total cost, approximately $100 for the two sheets of plywood, a dozen 2x4s, and about 26 cuts.  It was a big time saver to have them cut it on the panel saw at the store.  Hopefully the field crew can get this together soon.  I brought in an air nailer, but this tool will be for adult use only (for now).

In the CNC router room, special thanks to Mr. Hoard and Mr. Widholm for finishing the awesome new dust collection system.  Check it out when you get a chance.

On the CAM/CNC side of things, I got the 1st operation of the bearing blocks programmed, which took an hour.  I decided to make the two bearing blocks in one go out of a single piece of 1×2 barstock, 5.9″ long.  There are 7 tools in all, but it’s a rather straightforward part.  Programming took about an hour, and machine setup took about an hour.  Big thanks to Mr. Widholm and Julien C. for setting up the two vises on the HAAS!

I decided to use a thread-forming tap, which is different from a thread-cutting tap.  It’s supposed to not create chips, which is what causes a tap to bind and break.  Good idea right?  So on the first part, Tap goes 0.3 down into a 0.45 deep hole, and promptly proceeds to pull the part out of the vise, and shear itself off.  Well, there went about $15.  Need to get more taps.  I knew the speeds and feeds were correct.  10-32 tap, 800RPM, 25 IPM.  What gives?

After further investigation, I found OneCNC XR5 CAM software did not post a proper G84 tapping cycle code!  It was feeding with a G01! So, we had non-synchronous motion between the spindle RPM and the feedrate.  This is a dangerous bug in OneCNC that I’ll be reporting to Patrick Matthews at OneCNCWest.  When setting up a tapping operation in OneCNC, you MUST select “Machine Cycle -> G84” NOT “Automatic cycle”.  If you select Automatic cycle, it treats the tap like a drill.

After resolving that, and a few other minor adjustments to feedrates and cutting depths, we were back in business.  I had to tweak the countersink and corner rounder tool length offsets for a good fit and finish.  1/2″ endmill roughs it out at about 100 IPM, and finishes at about 50 IPM, all at 5500 RPM. Single-flute HSS Countersink is good SLOW at about 450 RPM and 8 IPM.  Drills are drilling at 6k RPM and about 30 IPM.  Tapping at 1440 RPM and 45 IPM.  I’m still not really sold on the form-tapping, as I’m not sure if we have the same thread depth/engagement.  It may just be an optical illusion when looking in the thread.  A screw seems to fit in okay.  Total part run time is about 5 minutes for the pair.  9 good sets of two bearing blocks were completed;  enough for two robots plus one demo set. A picture of today’s progress on the bearing blocks is shown below.


I consider this progress to be one full day behind.

In the morning, I’ll wake up at 6:00 AM to call Fry Steel to try to get some metal on the truck for delivery for the next set of parts.

Tomorrow, I will bore softjaws to flip these over, and program and machine the backside to make the coaxial joining tube features.  Then we’ll do the 5 bearing blocks for the gearboxes out of 2×3 bar stock on-hand, then we’ll get to sprockets from 7075, wheels from 4″ round 6061, and wheel axles from 7075 PG 1/2″ round rod.

We need more loc-line and fittings and nozzles.  Two just isn’t enough for tools of all different lengths.  Also, I ordered two more ER-25 3/16″ collets, because we have a lot of 3/16″ tools we use often.

Shop closing time today: 10:30 PM.


Day #1 – 1/4/2014 – Kickoff Day!

Today was the first official meeting day for the 2014 FRC season!

After the morning kickoff meeting and reading the rules, we immediately started strategizing and discussed functionalities and qualities we would like to see in our robot (as discussed by Karthik Kanagasabapathy in his FRC Strategic Design Presentations).


We ultimately decided that we want our robot to

  1. Driving (fast and with torque)
  2. Ground Intake
  3. High Goal Shooter /Truss Thrower
  4.  Vertical Aim
  5. Passing / Herding
  6. Low Goal Shooter
  7. “Hitting Arm” (to knock stuck balls out of alliance robots)
  8. Defense Capabilities

We also want to integrate a “Dead Man’s” ball release mechanism, to allow our alliance to retrieve a ball in our possession in the event that we become disabled. We could not decide where on the list we wanted to put that, so be wrote it right next to the top four items on the list.

As for important robot qualities, we have decided to design for

  • Easy Battery Placement (We had a problem with this in 2013)
  • Protected, But Accessible, Circuit Breaker (We don’t want to break our own circuits like we did twice at IRI in 2013)
  • Strong Outer Structure
  • Quick Ball Cycles
  • Easy Serviceability

We also had the opportunity to begin prototyping yesterday. We are beginning the process with one of the most famous mechanisms from 2008, Simbot S.S.’s shooter claw.





So far, we have been successful at shooting…. a few feet. At the next meeting we plan to add more surgical tubing and increase the travel distance for actuator.